Facilities & Labs - University of Houston
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Facilities & Labs

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The AGL’s mission is to create and apply new geophysical means of imaging and understanding the subsurface. We are particularly dedicated to conscientious resource discovery and recovery. Faculty members work with the energy industry, professional societies, and other institutions to develop advanced technologies and help in educating the next generation of geoscientists. We use scaled laboratory measurements, field surveys, numerical modeling, and digital processing to develop novel methods of subsurface analysis.

For more information, please visit the AGL website.

The Applied Sequence and Biostratigraphy Program is a research and training center in the integrated fields of sequence stratigraphy and biostratigraphy. The program has access to the department’s laboratories for stable and radio-isotopic, trace metal, paleontologic, and microscopic analysis. Additionally, workstation and PC hardware and software for typical sequence stratigraphic, biostratigraphic, and geophysical applications are available. This includes many common industrial applications.

The Center for Petroleum Geochemistry houses a full suite of laboratory tools to address a wide range of petroleum system, reservoir characterization, and petroleum phase behavior studies, as well as climate, environment, and archeology projects.

Analyses and services offered include:

  • Sample Preparation
  • Bitumen Extraction and Characterization
  • Crude Oil Analysis
  • High-resolution HPLC for SARA and PIN Separations
  • Organic Microscopy (Ro, TAI, TCI, Kerogen Type)
  • TOC / RockEval Pyrolysis
  • High-Resolution Full Range Gas Chromatography for Natural Gas and Crude Oil Analysis
  • GC-MS of Saturate & Aromatic Biomarkers and Diamondoids
  • Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry
  • Natural Gas Analysis
  • Molecular Composition C1, C2, C3, iC4, nC4, iC5, nC5, CO2, H2S, N2
  • Compound-Specific Isotope-Ratio Mass Spectrometry (GC-IRMS)

The CBTH Project seeks to create a GIS-based digital and atlas synthesis of available seismic and well data to define the regional hydrocarbon potential of a vast region affected by the Mesozoic breakup of Pangea.

This project, which has been operating since September 1, 2005, includes:

  • Known hydrocarbon basins of onshore and the lesser known offshore basins of the Caribbean and northern South America (Venezuela, Colombia, Trinidad, Suriname, Guyana, Northern Brazil)
  • The U.S. and Mexico sectors of the Gulf of Mexico, and
  • The rifted-passive margins of the Central in eastern North America and western Europe, and the
  • South Atlantic in South America and west Africa.

Our main objectives are to compile all the available digital seismic and published data in a GIS database to provide an integrated geologic synthesis of tectonosequences, depositional systems, major structures, petroleum geology, paleogeographic maps, and quantitative plate reconstructions for a better understanding of the hydrocarbon systems in the region. Our largest concentration of data and current studies are in the Caribbean and the U.S. and Mexican Gulf of Mexico, but we have several recently completed and ongoing projects in Brazil and west and northwest Africa.

The lab currently has two sets of experimental apparatus for performing hydrothermal experiments involving organic-inorganic interaction under conditions analogous to geological environments, along with analytical instruments capable of characterizing organic compounds in different phases, including Agilent 6460 triple quadrupole LC-MS/MS, Agilent 6890 GC, and Digital Instruments MMAFM-2 Atomic Force Microscope.

The Houston GPS Network (HoustonNet) is a network with over 210 permanent GPS stations operated by the University of Houston (UH), the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District (HGSD), the Texas Department of Transportation, the National Geodetic Survey, SmartNet, and the City of Houston, along with other agencies. The HoustonNet project began in 2012 thanks to funding from the NSF MRI grant “Acquisition of GPS Equipment for Establishing a Continuously Operating Dense GPS Network in Houston Metropolitan Area for Urban Natural Hazards Study (NO 1229278).”

As of 2019, UH operates over 70 permanent GPS stations. The Geodetic Laboratory, co-funded by UH and HGSD, routinely processes HoustonNet data for subsidence and fault monitoring within the Greater Houston Region.

Please contact Dr. Guoquan Wang for more information.

Equipment used for hydrogeology and hydrochemistry studies include an Ion Chromatograph, YSI dissolved oxygen meter and probe, Orion models SA720, 290A, and 230 pH/Eh/ion selective meters and electrodes, Orion model 125 conductivity meter and probe, multichannel data logger and pressure transducers with computer interface, power auger, Master-Flex peristaltic pump, Wattera pumps, Norton bailers, and electronic water level indicator.

Please contact Dr. Regina Capuano for more information.

The ICP (Inductively Coupled Plasma) Research Laboratory and Agilent Facility Center specializes in characterizing the chemical and isotopic compositions of materials, including the ability to provide in-situ micron scale analyses of solid samples. This lab is capable of analyzing all types of geological materials, including rocks, minerals, natural fluids, and organic materials including crude oil, with high precision. The lab is equipped with a Varian Model 810 Quadrupole ICP-MS, an Agilent 8800 Triple Quad ICP-MS, and an Agilent 725 ICP-OES.

The laboratory, housed on the third floor of Science & Research Building 1, Rooms 332 and 334, is under the direction of Dr. John F. Casey and is managed by Dr. Yongjun Gao.

For more information, please visit the ICP Analytical Research Laboratories page.

ICAS studies atmospheric chemistry, meteorological processes and climate- related phenomena. It also includes research on planetary atmospheres.

Apart from complex atmospheric chemistry and climate modeling, including machine learning applications in atmospheric science, we perform measurements of key atmospheric trace gases and aerosols, including O3, CO, CO2, CH4 (incl. δ13C), CO2 (incl. δ13C), VOCs, HCHO, H2O2, PANs, Hg˚, NO, NO2, HONO, NOy, SO2, and fine aerosols. We operate a well-equipped mobile air quality laboratory. A Pandora instrument is used for column measurements of O3, SO2, HCHO, and aerosols.

The Institute also has pressure/temperature-controlled instruments for measuring selected gases from an aircraft platform. Five ground-based stations in the Houston area are equipped with basic chemistry measurements. Radiosonde and ozone sonde equipment is available to determine vertical profiles of meteorological parameters, O3, and SO2 up to 25 km altitude.

The group publishes papers on atmospheric chemistry, meteorological processes, and climate in numerous international journals.

Please contact Dr. Bernhard Rappenglueck for more information or visit the ICAS website.

This facility is an open laboratory that serves internal and external users. It houses a Photon Machines Excite 193 nm ArF laser ablation instrument and a Nu Instruments NuPlasma II multiple-collector inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer. The facility also houses a metal-free clean laboratory equipped to separate and purify Mg, Si, Fe, Rb, Sr, REE (all), Hf, W, Hg, Pb, U, and Th for isotopic analyses. In situ isotopic analyses of solid materials by laser ablation include Al-Mg (early solar system), Si, Lu-Hf (in zircon), and U-Th-Pb.

Please contact Dr. Thomas Lapen or Dr. Minako Righter for more information.

The department is equipped with several petrographic microscopes for research by faculty and students, as well as state of the art micro-sampling equipment. Petrographic microscopes include:

  • A Nikon Eclipse LV100POL with transmitted and reflected light, digital camera, and 2.5x 5x, 10x, 20x, and 50x objective lenses.
  • A Zeiss Axio Imager.A2m with transmitted and reflected light, digital camera, 2.5x, 10x, 20x, and 40x objective lenses, and an automated point-counting stage with software.
The department also has special microscopes dedicated to cathodoluminescence, fluorescence, and vitrinite reflectance analyses which are hosted by several faculty. Micro-sampling equipment includes a New Wave Research MicroMill for sampling solid materials at the micron scale by precision milling to recover material for chemical and isotopic analysis. Please contact Dr. Alex Robinson for more information.

The Paleomagnetism Research Laboratory (PRL) at UH contains an Agico JR-6A spinner magnetometer, which can measure samples with a wide range of magnetizations (10-6 to 104 A/m). It is housed in a mu-metal shielded room with ambient magnetic fields of <200 nT.

The PRL contains equipment for sample demagnetization by both thermal and alternating field techniques. The thermal demagnetization unit is an ASC model TD-48SC, which is suitable for heating batches of samples between room temperature and 800 C. It has a cooling chamber with a low ambient magnetic field (<1 nT) to prevent the acquisition of spurious magnetizations. The alternating field magnetization unit is a D-Tech model D-2000AF, which generates unidirectional demagnetizing fields between 0 and 200 mT for demagnetization and the study of coercivity spectra of the remnant magnetization of materials. The demagnetization instruments are housed in a second shielded room, constructed of 3 layers of transformer steel, which also has internal ambient magnetic fields of <200 nT.

The lab also contains an Agico-Kappabridge model KLY5-A magnetic susceptibility meter, which can measure in phase and out-of-phase magnetic susceptibility and anisotropy of magnetic susceptibility of rock samples.

Please contact Dr. William Sager for more information about the PRL.

The TIMS (Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometer) Core Facility specializes in high precision and low abundance measurements of the Rb, Sr, Sm, Nd, Re, and Os isotopic compositions of materials. Low abundance isotopic measurements are achieved on single crystals or microdrilled samples. The abundances of platinum group elements (Os, Ir, Ru, Pt, Pd) are also measured using the Agilent 8800 Triple Quad ICP-MS housed in the ICP Research Laboratory.

All types of geological materials can be analyzed, including rocks, minerals, natural fluids, and organic materials including crude oil, with high precision. The TIMS Core Facility is equipped with a Thermofisher Triton Plus TIMS and a recently installed (2019) Thermofisher Triton XT TIMS.

For more information, please visit the TIMS website.

The Remote Sensing and Geospatial Research Laboratory (GeoRS) has a variety of hardware and software that provide surface and shallow subsurface imaging capabilities.

The hardware include:

  • Specim VNIR and SWIR Hypersepctral Cameras
  • ASD Spectroradiometer
  • Trimble RTK and NetR9 GPS with Zephyr antennas
  • GSSI SIR-4000 and SIR 3000 Ground Penetrating Radar systems (900 MHz, 400 MHz, 200 MHz, and 100 MHz antennas)
  • GSSI EM Profiler
  • DJI Matrice 600 hexacopter with RTK GPS and Zenmuse XT2 Radiometric camera, and
  • FLIR T530sc thermal infrared camera with w/24°Lens

Remote sensing and field data are processed and analyzed by software packages including: Envi with sarscape, ArcGIS, ArcGIS Pro, Radan, and ResearchIR Max.

As a public, research-oriented facility, RPL supports the research efforts of the oil and gas industry by conducting research in rock physics and by providing analytical and evaluation services. The primary goal is to carry out industry-oriented research, investigate reservoir rock properties, and integrate them with logging and seismic technology to solve common exploration and production problems. RPL also works with industry to provide technical services on proprietary projects.

The sedimentology lab at UH includes a Cilas 1190 laser particle size analyzer for sizing particles from 0.04 to 2,500 μm. The Cilas is integrated with an additional system for capturing particle images and analyzing various shape factors. The lab is also equipped with a Canberra germanium well-detector for gamma-ray spectroscopy. The system is designed for small volume samples and is used primarily for 210Pb and 137Cs measurement of recent sediments but is available for other gamma-ray measurements.

The lab has other standard equipment for working with sediments and sedimentary rocks, including a sonic bath, centrifuge, oven, sieves, and various microscopes. Computers in the lab are equipped with multibeam swath bathymetry processing software, seismic interpretation software, and log-correlation packages for integration of geophysical data with sample information.

For more information, contact Dr. Julia Wellner or any of her students.

Dr. Jiajia Sun’s research group advances the understanding of geodynamic systems at various scales (from resource exploration to crustal study) through multi-disciplinary research tools, methods, and data. Current research efforts focus on the following:

  • Integrating various types of prior information into common Earth model building for the purpose of better characterizing subsurface geological structures and compositions and utilizing methods and tools developed in convex optimization, image processing, sparse signal processing, medical imaging, and machine learning.
  • Interpreting magnetic data, complicated by remanence, by integrating machine learning and statistical modeling to the development of new interpretation methods and tools.

Facilities include two high-end Dell Precision workstations equipped with a total of 200 cores, 1 TB of RAM, and 48 GB NVIDIA GPU. These workstations are also equipped with MATLAB, Intel Parallel Studio, Visual Studio, Anaconda and Paraview for computer code development and testing as well as visualization of 3D Earth models. In addition, the lab hosts an array of Mac and PC workstations with high-end computational and graphic capabilities and two high-end deep learning workstations with 8 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti GPUs.